Thursday, November 29, 2012

Big 'Ups' NHS

As you will have read on a previous post, Michele broke her wrist falling lockside.

What she did not cover in great detail was her experience with the National Health Service and how it compares with our New Zealand experiences.

Having made the decision that we needed to get to Accident and Emergency to have her wrist looked at, we researched on the internet, to see what was involved, as ,although British Citizens, we are not registered with any General Practice, nor with the NHS.

It was clear, that, as it was an accident, we did not need to take anything with us, but we took passports and proof of address (cough, cough, we actually don't have an address, but we have very occasional mail sent to two addresses, so picked one).

Michele was seen within an hour, admittedly it was early in the morning, but in NZ, we would have had several hours wait!

All was fixed, X-Rays done, a temporary cast fitted, and an appointment made for 28th November for the fitting of a permanent cast once the swelling had gone down.

Yesterday, Michele caught the train from Apsley back into London to have the permanent cast fitted, and duly arrived back with a pink fibreglass cast, but a bit of a frown! Apparently the cast was causing some pressure on the ball of her thumb.

Thinking it would go away with time, we ignored it and settled in for the evening, with teh masterchef cooking a roast :)

Michele had a really bad night, the pressure did not go away, and she barely slept (and you know what hat means, neither did I!)
At 7 am this morning, Michele was out of bed, with no let up in the pressure. Knowing that she does not get up at this hour for ANY reason, I knew we had to do something! The decision was very quickly made to head back to London, as it was either that or she was going to get me to cut the cast off.

We did not phone first for an appointment, as the Fracure clinic at St Mary's Hospital did not open until 9 am.

Michele phoned them at 9 am, they could not fit her in until 2 pm! Michele advised them that was fine, but we were on the train, 30 minutes away and the cast was coming off!

We duly arrived just after 10 am, and Michele approached the reception counter with some trepidation, expecting to be told to sit down and wait. We were both amazed to be waved straight through! not only that, but as we approached the head nurse, Michele was immediately greeted by name, and sent straight through to the ward, where the Plaster Technicians were waiting. They removed teh old cast, much to Michele's relief! and fitted a new one there and then. The wrist was X-Rayed again, to insure it had not moved, and we were on our way.

Stunned and Amazed is the only description that fits! The Fracture Clinic were fantastic! In NZ, this would have taken most of the day!

All in all a very impressive service.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Bugger, Blast and "%@£&*!"$%&$@

After an uncomfortable and relatively painful evening on Tuesday and having turned down a visit to A&E, I changed my mind. With the persuasion of a qualified friend on Facebook and ragging from family, Andrew did a u-turn on the canal (lucky for me there was a turning hole, correct term: winding hole, close by) Andrew set course for Paddington Basin. St Mary's hospital overlooks the basin and I had happened to see an A&E sign while we were there. Also checked on internet to be absolutely certain. We made good time and at 9:45 am, I had filled in my form and was sitting in the waiting room. Quick chat with the triage nurse and I was off to x-ray. Back to waiting room and then the bad news. I had fractured the radius (larger long bone in forearm) right by the wrist. They had to cut off my wedding rings (not good) and then slap on a'back slab' plaster. This is plaster along the top of the forearm, to keep wrist relatively immobile but allows for swelling, which it did even more.All done and completed and I was back at the boat by 11:15am. I now have an appointment for 28th for the more permanent wrapper, which I have been told will be fibreglass.

In the meantime we have re-turned to our move north. We do not move that fast so I will still be just a short train ride from London. Andrew though is now doing all the work himself. I think that secretly he is really enjoying it, I just feel like an unnecessary spare part (idiot), maybe I can sit back and relax for the remainder of this year (which has not yet started by the way)

Even photography is difficult, I can't use my left hand to change the zoom! I have discovered though that because the lens has a ridged rubber surface, I can use my plaster to move it. Just takes a bit longer to get the right distance. I have at least managed a number of shots of Andrew locking for a change! Only because I let him mind you, although he does have an excuse now, it is a bit difficult for me to wind paddles one handed. In some cases I had to use more than just arm power!

And to finish off. a picture taken today at 3:20pm!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Goodbye London...till next time

Our 5 days in London have been fun and interesting, From the noisy 24 hour building site that is the new Hammersmith & Central & Circle line entrance at Paddington Basin, to the ride on the London Eye on an overcast and misty day.

Cabaret, the show on Friday night was great. Andrew and I both really enjoy live theatre. Awkward times though as the show starts at 7:30pm and finishes around 10pm. To early to eat before and couldn't be bothered afterwards. Not only that but on getting back to the boat, or should say trying, the steps up from the new entrance were closed and from within 10 meters of the boat we had to turn around and walk all the way back to the main Paddington station entrance and back past the hospital, a 15 minute walk all up. Not great when you are already tired. Still was a great evening.

Saturday was breakfast out, to get away from construction noise ( I was ready to wallop the first technicolour builder who walked past after a terribly noisy night), and then on to the Victoria and Albert museum. I enjoyed the displays but after spending a lot of time checking out all the jewellery, I think Andrew was getting a bit bored. I dragged him round anyway. ( I was bored - A)

Back to the boat to give it a good clean and tidy before Jody and Gina's visit on Sunday.

Sunday was  lovely relaxing day spent with family. Lots of laughter, drinks and food made for a fantastic day.  Looking forward to seeing them again in the next few weeks if that can be arranged. Their weekends are full, ours are pretty much empty :) but hopefully something can be arranged.

I missed this photo opportunity last year when we were here, so made absolutely certain I got it  this time. Helped that we were through here every day!

A view down the train - the Metropolitan Line

Silly me did not take any photos in Baker Street Station, one of the original stations for the Metrolpolitan Railway, the world's first underground railway, opened in 1863 (to quote Wikipedia) A beautiful station indeed.

Once I get myself and Andrew better organised we will do the National Archives at Kew and fill in some of those family tree blank spots. For now though we were both getting itchy feet and so today we started the trip back up north.

We, or probably more me, wanted to cruise up the Regent's canal for a bit before turning back.  Interesting canal with some very different views on living along here. A quick view of the London Zoo and then on to Camden, Locks and market. We were heading to go through the Islington tunnel before our turn around but I managed to put a halt to that after I slipped on some wet, mossy wood at the bottom of St Pancras lock. My left wrist is now quite swollen and very painful. Was concerned for  while that I had broken it but all fingers and thumb all moving okay, just bloody sore. We turned around in Battlebridge Basin and headed back. Unfortunately with my left hand out of action Andrew had to get us back through all the locks single handed as I cannot even use the throttle to help out. Thankfully there were only 4 but Camden Locks is very busy after lunch it seems. Andrew had quite an audience (and loved it !) ( True - A)

We are now moored up at Kensal Green and with tomorrows weather report looking pretty poor, we will probably stay put.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Paddington Arm to London

We have made it to London. Not going to see the Queen though. Thought we might give her a rest :)

We made an early start from Cowley Peachy Junction where we had spent the night in a marina again to get some washing done again. Well the washing machine coped with a short 30minute wash but spat the dummy with the drying cycle. It is a now a complete no-go. Andrew tried replacing the fuse in the plug but still nothing. So now we have to get a repair man out. So how do you explain to a washing machine service person how to find us. It is going to have to wait and it is back to saving the pound coins and searching out laundrettes!

Some pictures of the fauna viewed along the way. We did see quite a few Green Parrots but never close enough to get a decent photo.
Grey Squirrel

Mandarin Duck

And some views from the back of the boat coming in to Central London

Little Venice

More Little Venice

Looking back to the entrance to Paddington Basin

We arrived in Paddington Basin 5 1/2 hours later and rejoiced. There were some empty mooring spots, until we got closer and discovered WINTER MOORINGS!  Now British Waterways auctions off half (supposedly) of the visitor moorings from 1st November to 31st March to boaters as permanent winter moorings but not all of them get taken up. So we saw  spot with no winter moorings sign and thought fantastic. Not a great spot but at least we were still in Paddington Basin, where we wanted to be. Only this morning a BW employee turns up and tells Andrew that we were on a winter mooring, even though this spot was not been used, so we cannot stay there. It is a winter mooring! So it would seem rather than allowing visiting boaters to use the UN-SOLD and therefor UN-USED winter moorings, it is basically get lost visitor! Unless you can find a spot in the only 6 visitor moorings which are available over winter and there are at least 20 visitor mooring spots now designated Winter Moorings.

Well we moved rather than cop some sort of fine or whatever. We walked back to the true visitor moorings and someone had left this morning leaving us with a less than desirable spot but at least still where we would like to be. The builders will not be here over the weekend and at night so should be fine.

After resettling, we opted to hop on the underground and made our way to Covent Garden to get some same day tickets to a West End show. Unfortunately did not think that it is Friday and turns out some of the shows don't do discount tickets for Friday and Saturday, but we are off to see Cabaret tonight. Looking forward to it :)

Lunch (@ BK) and then even though it was not the best of weather I wanted to do the London Eye. Well let me tell you, you cannot see much when the mist rolls in :(

Anyway, time now to start getting ready for the show tonight, we don't want to be late !

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Makes it all worth it

I placed a reservation order with B&Q on Sunday evening, to pick up some stick on window frosting. We were in the bloody store that morning but I could not find it. That evening I decided to use Google and found that they do have it!! I want to put this on the window opposite the bathroom so that we can remove the curtains and THAT BLASTED RAIL. Closing the door every time is a real pain, so the curtain stays permanently closed.

Andrew has put up our two paintings, which is making the boat feel a bit more like it belongs to us :)  There is not much space for items like this and they are both quite big. But looking good.
It is a bit dark to take photos now but I will see what I can do tomorrow.  I will take a few 'all over' photos so that you can get an idea of what Ashdown looks like while being 'lived in'.

We also made some stops at HomeBase, Dunelm Mill and Wickes on Monday, to try and find the various bits and bobs that we still need.  I would like to have a set of wire basket drawers in the one storage cupboard so that fitting in the canned groceries and then getting them back out again, without having to unpack the cupboard each time, will be a lot easier. Turns out that should be available in B&Q too, but again not found, obviously. We picked up another storage chest from Dunelm Mill, so we now have one each. They can double as a seat and a side table, as well as the storage option :) Very useful when space is a premium.

B&Q were supposed to call to confirm the order reservation, but I am still waiting!!  After waiting 1 1/2 hrs for the call on Monday morning, we upped sticks and moved on, B&Q can keep the window frosting!!  I will find something somewhere else. Andrew is looking at some alternatives to the water supply for the washing machine by filling with a combination of hot and cold water and disabling the heater/thermostat. As we are starting to expect, the parts he needed are supplied by Wickes but only if pre-ordered for pick-up. This shopping for specific requirements is really beginning to suck! You can order anything you like online and have it delivered! To a residential address that is. Bridge 151 on the Grand Union Canal, is not considered a residential address, surprise, surprise. :(

By the time we moved, on Monday, it was overcast and drizzling slightly. 3 1/3 hours later we were both soaked and cold.  Although the rain did not seem get heavier it did remain persistent. Finding decent moorings between the various locks that we had to go through was an issue and Andrew had plans to stop at Cassiobury Park anyway. Which is where we did finally stop.

This morning dawned with a beautiful blue sky, although a short while later it did start clouding over. It remained dry though and very mild. 12degC according to the weather app on my phone. Amazingly enough I was awake and up before 7:30am, before sun rise even (well not quite). On seeing the weather I popped out a.s.a.p with camera in hand :-)

So some lovely autumn scenes and a couple of bird ones, taken with my lovely new 100-400mm lens, the birds that is. I couldn't have got them otherwise :)

Plenty of Autumn Colours



Andrew had a go at running the washing machine using the petrol generator. We needed dry weather and a reasonably rural area in order to run the generator as it could be a bit noisy (97db). We were not sure how loud it might be as we have not run it before. Unfortunately this little trial failed. The washing machine did not like the power supplied directly by the generator. Hopefully there has been no damage done, to the washing machine that is.

Lovely as the spot was (Cassiobury Park in Watford), we moved on a as we would like to get to Paddington Basin sooner rather than later. Even though we are now just 22 miles from the Basin, it will still take us 2 days.  According to Canal Plan it will take just over 8 hours to get there and with short days we cannot easily manage 8 hours travelling time.  Andrew has checked online and we will spend the night tomorrow in a marina to get the washing done again. This will split the 8 hours travelling into 2 easy days of 3 hours (6 miles, ¾ furlongs and 4 locks) and 5 hours (16 miles, 6½ furlongs and 0 locks).  


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Up Hill and Down Dale or Up Lock and Down Lock

Over the past few days, I have realised that I have absolutely no idea what day it is without checking on my phone! As was to be expected I got my dates totally wrong and we are only seeing Jody and Gina next weekend, NOT THIS WEEKEND!! So with an extra 7 days up our sleeves we have decided to go and visit London. More precisely, the Paddington Arm and Little Venice. Jody and Gina will find us where-ever we are next Sunday :)

The swing bridge in the middle of a lock in Fenny Stratford

Foxglove, the boat we hired last year, moored up for the winter at Wyvern Shipping Company, Leighton Buzzard

Out rural mooring between Church Lock and Bridge 118

Views coming into Linslade

On ascending the Marsworth Flight the following day, each pound seemed to be lower than the one before. By the time we reached the last lock in the flight, the water level was at least a foot below normal. Luckily the water here is less 'polluted' with rubbish and we did not collect any artifacts around the propeller. Up along the Tring Summit though we did not seem to have any issues with water depth, although I did read that at the summit, the depth is 30ft.

The weather has continued to be good to us, although this morning was the first morning in quite a while where we were actually able to see frost on the grass, or at least it was still around by the time I surfaced.

Approaching Lock 62 on the outskirts of Hemel Hempstead

In comparison, an interesting experience where there was so much water in the pound between two locks, that it was flowing over the top of the 'top' gate at such a rate that the lock would not empty enough for me to open it. That is the water coming over the top was coming in at the same rate as the water going out the bottom gate paddles. Poor (?) Andrew was stuck in the lock with me unable to open the bottom gates until enough water had past over the top lock gate to bring the water level, level with the top gate. At which point the last few inches could drain via the bottom gate paddles and I could then open the lock. Unfortunately Andrew did not take any pictures but I will see what it is like on the return journey
While waiting, another boat approached from behind us and also wanted to go through the lock. Good idea! Refill the lock, which uses about 56,000 gallons of water and this would drop the water level, allowing both of us out the bottom of the lock. So we proceeded to refill the lock, let the second boat in and then reopen the bottom paddles. By the time we had the lock empty this second time, the water was already starting to waterfall over the top gates again. Turns out there is a small river flowing into the pound above the lock! Could be interesting when we come back this way in a few weeks. We might just have to empty the lock a couple of times in order to get the bottom gates open again.

Later it was off to B&Q for bits and pieces to complete various jobs around the boat. Andrew was not able to find all the necessary bits and bobs, so we ended up at Halfords. Much to my delight there was a Bike Hut there and a lovely little blue bike WITH mudguards. So I am now the proud owner of a bike, still in it's box and requiring a bit of time and effort to put it all together. Not sure that I want my new bike getting rained on but also not sure how I will keep it covered when it is placed on the top of the boat, along with Andrew's one. Photo's when it is all put together!

The view from the back of the boat this evening .. Bridge 154 in Hemel Hempstead

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The washing is done, now to dry !

On Monday morning at Norton Junction/Buckby Top Lock, Andrew noticed a working boat moored just ahead of us. As we were close to our last bag of coal, we waited for some signs of life and arranged to relieve them of their last 8 bags of 'Excel' coal.
Andrew making friends with the working boat lurcher

Stacking the bags of coal

On Monday night we pulled in at Blisworth Marina, near Gayton Junction, for our overnight stop. On looking around Andrew noticed that we were moored up a couple of spots away from nb Marmaduke, the very first boat that Andrew mentioned buying.  I think that seeing it on the Canal World forum was what got him thinking.
We were able to plug into shore power and water was on tap. There were also paid laundry facilities. So 3 loads of washing were processed and 1 load dried. So that is the laundry up to date for the time being.
The low drying cycles of the washing machine will work while running the engine, so the remainder of the washing is now almost dry.  It is currently on the clothes horse with the heat from the coal stove helping it dry.
With no dinner on board we walked to the local inn, The Walnut Tree. I had a lovely dinner of liver and bacon. Andrew had the ham steak and egg and after seeing mine wished he had ordered that too. But still a very nice meal and a lovely pub with great service.

After leaving the marina on a lovely sunny Tuesday morning and stopping for a quick provisions stop at Blisworth, we then passed through the Blisworth Tunnel, the longest navigable tunnel on the waterways. It should take about 45 minutes to pass through, Andrew did it in 32 even with passing another boat going the other way in the middle! Speed freak!
Not long after exiting the tunnel, the weather turned overcast and then drizzle nearing the bottom of the Stoke Bruene flight. It seems that over the past couple of weeks everyone is going in the same direction as us and reaching these lock flights first, creating extra work for me to re-set the lock for before Andrew can go in and then either emptying or filling again to allow us to continue. Almost had me wishing yesterday after this 5th flight, that maybe I should have pushed for a motor home instead! A lot less work and easier access to laundrettes! But then we would be seeing the countryside pass at ridiculous speeds and I would not have the time that I do to contemplate nature in all it's splendor while waiting for locks to fill and empty. I am sure that I have seen a goldfinch, a tree sparrow and of course the obligatory heron's, crow's, blackbirds and gulls. Plus plenty of fungi, best time of the year for those. We even have our own fungi garden on our stern fender. Maybe I should take a picture of them :)  I just have not been quick enough with the camera to catch the squirrels in the trees, eating red berries, which I  could not identify.
We finally moored up in Cosgrove, freezing cold. Just after Andrew had sorted the TV aerial, which for obvious reasons is taken down every time we move and got the stove stocked and roaring, the rain came tipping down.  It cleared up nicely later in the evening though for me to get some lovely night shots of the very ornate bridge in Cosgrove that we had moored just after.  I took a couple again this morning in the lovely sunshine for comparison.

Today has been a mixture of sunny and overcast weather but thankfully no rain. Gets very chilly standing out back though when the clouds cover the sun. But we have been rewarded with a pretty sunset.
Now to get Andrew to put up my painting from Gill which I insisted on bringing with me.
So a couple of pictures this time round as I have managed to bring out the camera now that the rain is staying  away.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Washing Machine Saga (begins...)

We are slowly making our way to Berkhamstead in the hopes of arriving there before Sunday 11th, when we plan to see Jody and Gina again for the first time since arriving in the UK this year.

The weather has been dry, if not cold for the past few days travel, until yesterday. So after some discussion we decided to stay put so that Andrew can look at installing the washing machine. I have been on at him for a while to get this done as launderettes seem to be few and far between, within a walking distance of the canal that is.

This required a bit of work. We would use the porta-pottie cupboard. We thought that we would remove the basin in here and use that space for the washing machine. So after stopping early yesterday, Andrew proceeded to remove the cupboard. We already knew that the washing machine would have to stand on top of the 'poo' tank which sat under there, which Andrew and Mattie had discovered on previous excursions under the bonnet installing the solar power connections.  What Andrew discovered though, AFTER removing the cupboard, were some further pipes making the use of this space for the washing machine an impossibility. Never mind that getting washing in and out the machine WITH me in that small cupboard was going to be a bit of a squeeze!

So time to rethink...  the machine fits in the cupboard on the floor where the porta-pottie used to sit. It has been connected to the water and the outlet. For now an extension cord is used for power.  The dismantled cupboard will be replaced with a new base and backing, to cover up the electrics and pipes, and some shelving for storage. We then had a go at testing the machine. With the engine running to provide the necessary power, all looked good. We ran a rinse and spin cycle, no leaks and all water imported and exported as expected.  At this point I was getting rather excited, I could do some of the pile of washing that had been waiting for just this moment.  So, a small load to start with. All starts great UNTIL...the cold water needed heating! At that point the inverter (which converts engine, or battery, power to 240v) can't supply enough power to the washing machine and turns itself off, along with the washing machine. BUGGER. So we try a cold wash, still no luck, as the machine does not do a cold wash!

OK, we now have some very wet washing, luckily only a towel and the bath mat, but it is raining pretty heavily outside. Well the washing machine is also a dryer, maybe that will work? It works fine, but will take almost three hours to dry a load and for cottons 4 hours!

So now I have a very expensive ballast weight in the cupboard taking up lots of room and a lot of washing to be done!

Andrew is going back to the drawing board to try and figure out a solution. If we were connected to shore power Andrew is sure that it will work fine. We do however have a petrol generator, but no petrol. So that will be the next trial, find some petrol. Me, I just want the washing done.

After a bit of investigation using the canal handbooks and the internet, we are a couple of hours from a marina.  Now marina's have a supply of shore power, water and visitor moorings. So guess where we will be tomorrow. Washing and drying madly while Andrew takes a well earned rest :)